YESTERDAY, WE targeted the external violence that affects the operation of schools, focusing on South St. Andrew in particular. Today we look inside the institutions at another form of violence: students against students or even students against teachers.
Daily reports of extortion, gang-related activities, bullying and wounding are common in schools, which leave many members of the school community in fear.
Schools are supposed to be places of learning and as we attempt to transform the education system, the matter of violence in school has to be addressed in a more systematic way, or the transformation process will be futile.
At present, there is no national consensus on the rules that should govern schools in Jamaica. Principals are given autonomy to set their own rules. But some educators believe that this should not be so. Alphansus Davis, president of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals, is urging the government to develop a national code of conduct for students. Maybe this is the way forward as a legislated code would probably make students more accountable for their actions and therefore reduce the incidence of violence in educational institutions.
The Safe Schools Programme where police personnel are placed in schools was introduced last year September to stamp out the incidents of violence affecting some of the nation's schools. But more still needs to be done to address the problem as only 80 of the 1,002 public schools have police personnel in them.
A security survey conducted during the first four months of the Safe Schools Programme revealed that four illegal firearms and 465 offensive weapons, including knives, scissors, ice picks and half-machetes. were found on students; prompting the view that some students are at war and the schoolroom is the battlefield. While a school may be a reflection of what is happening in the society, it cannot be business as usual. More has to be done to combat this vicious scourge that is feeding upon the education system.
At St. James High School, every child is searched with a metal detector before he or she is allowed to enter the school compound - a sombre indication of the deterioration which warrants such extreme measures. We are left to wonder about the role of school boards and the degree of supervision they are expected to exert in the functioning of schools.
Over all of this the role of the Ministry of Education in implementing a national policy should be clearly elucidated so that the vital task of preparing young people for responsible and productive citizenship is not neglected by a laissez-faire approach. Violence in schools is not just a police matter. Corrective measures must start from the very source of national policy and administration. The nation's future is at stake.
THE OPINIONS ON THIS PAGE, EXCEPT FOR THE ABOVE, DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE GLEANER.